Corporations that try to bend the rules can be fined by governments and civil courts and find themselves owing staggering sums. This has been especially true since the 2008 financial crisis as big businesses have come under increased scrutiny.
Recent research by Diggity Marketing looked at businesses that have been fined the most since 2000, and the most commonly fined industries and offenses leading to fines.
Examining data from the Violation Tracker maintained by Good Jobs First, a pro-union think tank, Diggity Marketing found that businesses in the financial sector were by far the most likely to find themselves in trouble. Over the past 20 years, they have paid a total of $331 billion in fines — more than all other industries combined.
By comparison, pharmaceutical companies have been fined $50.3 billion over the past two decades, oil and gas $45.5 billion, motor vehicles $31.1 billion and utilities $22.4 billion.
“Toxic securities abuses” — those involving assets that became difficult or impossible to sell because of a collapse in demand for them — made up the most expensive category of offenses, leading to $100.1 billion in fines, according to the marketing group.
Some of the financial institutions that received the biggest fines sold vast amounts of toxic assets in the buildup to the crisis, it said.
Of the four wirehouses, only Morgan Stanley is not on this list (Bank of America owns Merrill Lynch.) If it were, it would be No. 11, with 148 fines totaling $9.8 billion. See the gallery above for the 10 global financial institutions that received the highest total fines from U.S. courts and regulators. The firms are based in the U.S. unless otherwise noted.